by Rick Pruetz, Vice President, Ecocity Builders

The European Commission has picked Tallinn as the 2023 European Green Capital. Located 40 miles across the Baltic Sea from Helsinki, Finland, Tallinn, population 446,000, is the capital of Estonia, which borders Latvia to the south and Russia to the east. It was once part of the Soviet Union but currently holds memberships in the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Tallinn also now joins 13 other European cities recognized for making impressive progress in various measurements of sustainability that are comparable to the categories found in the Ecocity Standards.

Tallinn aims to be a 15-minute city, achieving what Ecocity Builders calls “access by proximity”: compact, diverse, mixed-use communities where people can reach jobs, schools, shopping, and other everyday activities by walking, bicycling, or taking public transportation rather than driving individual cars. In 2020, 62 percent of all journeys were “green” and the city’s 2035 plan aims to increase that ratio in the future. The city’s development plan calls for ‘homes that include the street’ and making roadways multi-modal, slower, and safer, as well as green.

As of 2020, 87 percent of residents had a transport stop within 400 meters of their homes. Citizens have been able to use the public transit system for free since 2013, making Tallinn the first European capital to provide public transportation free of charge.

Tallinn pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2030 (using 2007 as baseline) and commits to be carbon neutral by 2050. Tallinn has also signed on to the Green City Accord, committing to achieve ambitious goals in five environmental management areas to accelerate delivery of the European Green Deal requirements for air quality, water quality, biodiversity, circular economy and reduced urban noise pollution.

Tallinn pledges to preserve and expand greenery into all urban spaces to create a green network that allows species to migrate and facilitates the city’s adaptation to climate change. Currently, almost 20 percent of the city’s land area is preserved for biodiversity with 12 percent in garden landscapes and 22 percent in crown coverage. 

Tallin’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city pledges continued preservation and maintenance of its cultural monuments, archeological heritage, historic city space, and landmark buildings. Tallinn is also recognized as a leader in information technology and has committed to use its expertise in innovation to widely share what was learned in the process of becoming the 2023 European Green Capital.


European Commission. 2022. European Green Capital 2023 – Tallinn. Accessed 5-14-22 at

Tallinn. 2022. Tallinn 2025 Development Strategy. Accessed 5-14-22 at

About the author

Rick Pruetz

Rick Pruetz, FAICP, is Vice President of the Ecocity Builders Board and an urban planner who writes about sustainability, most recently Ecocity Snapshots: Learning from Europe’s Greenest Places and Smart Climate Action through Transfer of Development Rights.